Looking for card game software with smart bridge partners
December 28, 2009 3:57 PM   Subscribe

Know of any good card game software with computer bridge players who know how to bid? My mom plays Hoyle Card Games 2008 on Windows XP and is eternally frustrated with the choices her electronic partners make.

I don't know much about bridge, but I'm looking to help my mother find some card game software that won't frustrate her (so much, anyway) with the lack of skill her computer partners show when playing bridge.

When I asked her to describe more specifically what one of the issues is, she described it thus: "The players pass when they have a 6 to 8 card suit with 3 honors. They don't respond - I open and they never tell me." (This is incomprehensible to me, but hopefully means something to those of you who play bridge).

Can anyone help with ideas for games she could get where the bridge-playing partners are more skilled?

(She is not interested in playing with humans online, but if you wish to share information about this, perhaps a future searcher would find it helpful if you decide to comment in this thread.)
posted by marble to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (6 answers total)
Most software bridge AIs are pretty awful. I had a friend who was working on a better one, let's see if I can find it. I am pretty sure it is this one:Bridge Baron. My friend was/is (haven't talked to him much recently) a pretty obsessive/good young bridge player, so I think that would help make a better one.

Honestly, though, I'd choose Bridge Base Online over any of the AI options. BBO has good players, and you can make friends and try to play with the same people all the time. I haven't played much contract bridge recently (I blame living in Japan), but I always had a good time on BBO, and people generally weren't too pushy and also relatively skilled.
posted by that girl at 4:31 PM on December 28, 2009

MSN Bridge shows 573 players as I just looked at it, and it's free. But I don't have the slightest idea how good they are. (I don't play Bridge.) It looks like it's the same code as the above, but it's a different server.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:41 PM on December 28, 2009

Bridge bidding is insanely complicated because it serves as both a bidding mechanism for the game and a covert channel to transmit information which should improve your bid (and therefore points for winning the bid). There are a number of bidding conventions that communicate various aspects of your hand to your partner.

As a programmer and grandson with a bridge playing grandmother, I only know that these things exist, not that they're valuable. I haven't used it, but Jack appears to be quite a powerful AI judging by the AAAI's survey of Bridge AI. Wikipedia suggests it's a fairly strong player at the highest levels, so it might be worth looking at the Jack demo to see if it's more suitable.
posted by pwnguin at 6:05 PM on December 28, 2009

Doh. Sometimes when I'm typing stuff like this up my fingers keep going after my internal narrative stops =( Bidding conventions are of course valuable. I only know that bridge has complicated bidding conventions, not what they are or how they're used.
posted by pwnguin at 6:10 PM on December 28, 2009

pwnguin, bridge bidding is absolutely not covert. In organized competition at any level, anything other than full disclosure of what your bids mean (as opposed to what's actually in your hand) is considered a breach of ethics. There's no allowed mechanism for covertly transmitting any information -- that's cheating.

To answer marble's question, Bridge Base Online (BBO) is the best total bridge experience out there. It's populated with both novices and world champions, and it's enjoyable just to watch the pros play. It's free to do most things on BBO, including playing against other people or kibitz.

On BBO you can also rent "robots" to play against. These are server-based programs running "GIB", once called Goren-In-a-Box but now called Ginsberg's Intelligent Bridgeplayer for trademark reasons. Since GIBs use CPU, it costs to rent them, something like $1/week. The GIBs play quite well and bid aggressively using a system called Moscito Byte.

There's also a fun duplicate format in which you simultaneously bid and play the same hands as your competitors, and each competitor is at a table with one human (him/herself) and three GIBs. The winner is the one who has the highest cumulative score of all the humans. The duplicate games cost $0.25-$1 to play usually, and top finishers usually get some BBO $ as prizes.
posted by ldenneau at 7:55 PM on December 28, 2009

One other note about GIB: Zia Mahmood, a world champion, once bet £1 million that he would never lose to a bridge program. Since GIB arrived, he's rescinded his bet. More info here.
posted by ldenneau at 7:59 PM on December 28, 2009

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